Assessment (Option 2)
Your School Trained
& Certified to Conduct Standard Group Assessment
In this option, a DISCOVER staff member trains
your school staff (or community members) to
conduct the DISCOVER Assessment on our behalf.
Most schools prefer this option because of its
flexibility and cost effectiveness.
The individuals you choose to receive training
are called “Observer Candidates” (because they
are preparing to become Assessment Observers).
The training occurs in three parts: Initial
Training, Practice, and Final
Training leading to certification.
Initial Training: The initial training
lasts for five consecutive days and has several
components: 1) background and research
of the Assessment; 2) practice sessions; 3)
a mentored, live Assessment with a classroom
of children; and 4) a full debriefing that analyzes
the live Assessment results.
Practice: Once finished with the initial
training, the Observer Candidates conduct additional
live Assessments to practice the skills they
have learned. At least four such Assessments
must occur before the DISCOVER Trainer returns
for the final training. These practice
Assessments typically do not count “officially”
and the results are not used for placement because
the Observer Candidates must first gain experience.
However, in many cases these Assessments can
count officially if certain procedures and guidelines
are followed. The Assessment Trainer will
provide more information about this process.
Final Training: After the four (or
more) practice Assessments have been completed,
the DISCOVER Trainer returns to conduct a final
one or two day training session that involves
yet another live Assessment. Ideally this
final training should occur within two or three
months of the initial training. During
the final training, the Observer Candidates
conduct a live Assessment, while being observed
and mentored by the DISCOVER Trainer.
The Trainer then uses a performance checklist
to evaluate each of the Observer Candidates,
to determine those ready for certification (meaning
that they are ready to conduct official Assessments
without further training). Those not yet
ready will have the option of pursuing additional
practice and/or training to potentially qualify
for certification at a future date.
When the certification process is complete,
the new team(s) can conduct an unlimited number
of Assessments within their school, district,
or cooperative. Observers maintain their
certification by completing an annual re-certification
When selecting potential Observers for training,
keep in mind that a variety of backgrounds is
good; Observers working as a team, with differing
perspectives, adds depth to the final Assessment
results. Almost anyone has the potential
to be an Observer. Some schools train
current teachers and cover their positions during
Assessment periods. Some mix in retired
teachers or volunteers. Others want representation
from non-teacher, school-related professions.
We have even seen successful examples where
older student peers and college students were
trained as Observers. At a minimum, Observer
candidates should have some experience working
with children and, ideally, should not personally
know the children they will be assessing, to
reduce the potential for bias.
During the initial and final training segments,
the DISCOVER Trainer will observe and mentor
each Observer Candidate—sometimes in groups
but often individually. For this reason
we limit the ratio of Candidates-to-Trainer
at 10. In other words, if your school
will be training 20 Observers, two DISCOVER
Trainers will be required (or one Trainer and
two separate trainings).
Many Observers Should We Train?
One Observer can observe up to five students
per Assessment. Therefore, if your average
class size is 25, you will need a minimum of
five Observers per Assessment. Most Assessment
teams maintain between 5 and 6 regular Observers,
with alternates available when needed.
Large schools, districts, and school cooperatives
usually maintain several active teams so that
they can assess more than one classroom per
day, in more than one location. Smaller
schools also sometimes operate more than one
team if they will be assessing an entire grade
or multiple grades. In general, our recommendation
for small to medium schools, just starting with
DISCOVER, is to initially train a minimum of
10 people who will be used to form one team.
We recommend training 10 people (even though
the typical team size is less) for several reasons:
1) attrition—one or more initial trainees might
take another job, move, or decide to no longer
be an Observer; 2) absence of Observers during
the Assessment period, due to other commitments,
vacation, or sickness; 3) failure of a trainee
to qualify for certification—on average around
one out of ten. By initially training
a few extra personnel, you will be assured of
having a full Assessment team when it’s needed.
Also, recognize that being an Observer can be
a big responsibility and that it’s a good idea
to have another person or two available to during
the busiest times. Most schools lighten
the Observers’ roles by assigning the math and
writing components of the Assessment to other
people; for example they may assign these tasks
to one or two of the initial trainees who are
not the primary Observers. Such individuals
also can serve as Observer substitutes.
If you have a separate person in charge of data
management, it might be a good idea to have
him or her be one of the initial trainees, to
gain a good sense of how the data is collected
and used. Some schools also put the Assessment
Team Leader in a position of back-up Observer,
so that she or he has more time to focus on
the team’s organizational details. And
finally, if you can convince a member of your
administration to be one of the initial trainees,
do so; we have found, almost without exception,
that the most successful DISCOVER programs have
at least one administrator who is intimately
knowledgeable of the Assessment process and
has been trained as an Observer. In other
words—train all those who will be directly involved
in some way, and make sure alternate Observers
are available when needed.
Training Details (Initial
The Standard Assessment contains five activities.
Three of these—Spatial Artistic, Spatial Analytical,
and Oral Linguistic—require Observers and are
the primary focus of the training. Each
segment in the initial training begins with
an interactive presentation explaining how that
activity works, making sure everyone understands
the three core components of DISCOVER,
problem solving, and
diversity. Trainees then
practice the activities, exactly as if they
themselves are being assessed. This gives
them a good understanding of the experience,
from the perspective of the children.
After the practice they analyze their own products
and behaviors in the same way they will analyze
the children’s efforts in the real Assessments,
and they study the Behavior Checklist sheets,
to understand the approximately 120 key problem-solving
behaviors they will be looking for. Then
comes the actual live practice Assessment with
a classroom of students. Your school needs to
choose a class of students to be assessed and,
ideally, the Assessment should occur in their
regular classroom, with their regular teacher
performing the role of Assessment Leader.
(Summer trainings sometimes include students
who are participating in school-based summer
programs). Make sure the students are
the correct age. Assessment trainings
are age specific, falling into categories of
K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, and procedures for
each age group differ. Observer Candidates
need to practice on the age group appropriate
to their future certification level. This
observation component of the live Assessment
takes approximately 3 hours and is best done
in the morning when the children are fresh.
The final part of the initial training involves
debriefing the practice Assessment results,
a process where the Observer Candidates come
to consensus on which ratings will be assigned
to each student. A similar debriefing
process occurs in regular Assessments, as well.
During Assessments, Observers are seated at
tables with no more than 5 children each, in
a position where they can see and assist all
children equally. Children sit at the
same table throughout the process, but the Observers
rotate to a different table after each activity,
so that they observe a different group each
time. Most people are surprised to learn
that giving children assistance while they are
being “tested” is an important part of the process.
How and when Observers give this
assistance is discussed in great detail during
the training. The assistance must be given
in a precise manner to maintain the Assessment
reliability and validity. Unlike paper-and-pencil
tests that are static, the DISCOVER Assessment
is dynamic—meaning that interaction between
the children, and between the children and the
Observer, is part of the design. Basically,
the Observers measure the children’s problem-solving
abilities by guiding them into ever deepening
problem-solving exercises. To assure procedures
are standardized, what the Observers say and
do is scripted to some extent.
It is important to note that Observers, while
being the primary information gatherers, do
not actually “run” the Assessment. A person
designated as the Assessment Leader performs
this task, typically the regular classroom teacher
or someone else known to the children.
The Assessment Leader does not need special
training but does need to prepare for the role,
by reading through the Leader instructions in
advance. The Assessment Leader’s responsibilities
include reading directions for each activity
(while the Observers visually demonstrate),
ushering the children in and out of the classroom
between activities, and addressing disciplinary
issues. In effect, the Assessment Leader
is, for lack of a better term, like a circus
ringleader. He or she keeps the process
moving along in a timely manner. Very
important: The person filling the
Assessment Leader role should never be, at the
same time, one of the Observers. It is
impossible for one person to adequately fill
both positions. The Assessment Leader
might need one or more assistants if the Assessment
is to be conducted in more than one language.
All directions should be translated accordingly,
and linguistic assistance given to Observers
when necessary. Making sure each child
is assessed in his or her dominant language
is important so that language does not become
a barrier to recognizing other abilities.
(Don’t confuse the term Assessment Leader
with the term Assessment Team Leader.
The Assessment Leader is usually an outside
person—not a part of the regular Assessment
team—whereas the Assessment Team Leader
is the leader of the Observer team, usually
the Observer with the best organizational and
The other two Assessment activities—Logical-Mathematical
and Written Linguistic—do not require Observers
and generally are administered by the regular
classroom teacher on a different day (preferably
before). Both activities do, however,
need to be scored by trained personnel.
We provide training in scoring as part of the
regular Assessment training but each school
decides who actually will do the scoring.
Some schools have all of their Observer Trainees
learn the scoring process, spreading the responsibility
between them. Other schools designate
one or two Observer Trainees to learn scoring
and this becomes their primary task.
Most schools find
the cost per student to be around $43, once
the Assessment teams are operational.